It happened again. Yet another last minute comeback, to further embellish a Champions League edition that could arguably end up being the most exciting ever. This time, it was Tottenham’s turn to pull out the most incredible of victories, stunning Ajax with a shocking 2-3 late win that projected them straight into their first Champions League Final in their history.
Mohammed Salah’s t-shirt was prophetical. “Never Give Up,” it read. Liverpool wrote another page of a history made of impossible comebacks as they trashed Barcelona to reach the Champions League Final once again. The scorecard at Anfield Road read 4-0 at full time, an outcome that completely overturned what happened at the Camp Nou one week ago.
Ajax don’t want to stop. The white-and-red won 1-0 in London over Tottenham, and can now legitimately aim at reaching the Champions League Final for the first time in 23 years. A lone goal by midfielder Donny van de Beek stunned the Tottenham Stadium and the Semifinal debuting Spurs to secure his side a strong advantage in view of next Wednesday’s second leg.
Juventus’ Champions League Curse continues. The Bianconeri ended their run in the elite European competition once again in the Quarter Finals, demolished by a magnificent Ajax. Coach Erik ten Hag’s squad raided the Allianz Stadium, snatched an epic 2-1 win, and progressed 3-2 on aggregate to show their face among the Top Four after 22 years.
Last Thursday, the draw for the Champions League 2018-19 Group Stage took place. It was the day every fan had been waiting for since last May’s Real Madrid win over Liverpool 3-1 in the Final in Kiev. This year, the title of “Group of Death” went to Group C, which will feature Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, Liverpool, and Red Star Belgrade.
What a start, gentlemen! What a game! The European football season officially kicked off yesterday with a new edition of El Derbi Madrileño between Real and Atlètico. The Colchoneros stunned their more famous city rivals and incumbent Champions League title holders, prevailing 4-2 after extra time to capture the UEFA Super Cup 2018.
All Roma fans could hope for yesterday was an entertaining match, conscious that coming back from three goals should be an exception, not the rule. Still, the Giallorossi went as close as possible to another sensational comeback, prevailing over Liverpool 4-2 in the second leg of a Champions League Semifinal. The Reds advanced on a 7-6 aggregate score, but Roma left the Stadio Olimpico with their heads held high.
Liverpool had to score five times, led by a sumptuous Mohammed Salah, before Roma finally woke up and remembered they were playing a Champions League semifinal at Anfield Road. Late goals by Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti saved the Giallorossi’s face, leaving a feeble qualification hope alive, but it will take another remuntada for Eusebio Di Francesco to come back from last night’s 2-5.
That hurts. Badly. Juventus’ match at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid followed the script of a perfect movie, until its very ending – when direction passed in the hands of some sadistic horror movie regisseur. A penalty awarded in the 93rd minute saved Cristiano Ronaldo and his Blancos, after Juve had scored three goals, performing an incredible comeback, and putting the defending European Champions to the ropes.
Some football fans live their whole life waiting for a night like this. Then, that moment suddenly comes, when the irrational becomes possible, and football turns into epic. Roma did what seemed impossible to do: Beating Lionel Messi’s Barcelona 3-0 to push them out of the Champions League, and advance to the semifinals of the top European competition for the second time in their history.
Long gone are the days when Juventus used to be Real Madrid’s nemesis in Europe. The Galacticos delivered a painful hammering to Massimiliano Allegri’s Bianconeri last night, one year after last season’s Champions League Final. The 3-0 by which Real virtually put one foot and a half in the semifinal matured at the end of a gigantic performance by Cristiano Ronaldo, touched by grace in occasion of his second goal.
“Gufare.” There is no better verb to express the sublime pleasure Italian football fans feel, when genuinely wishing the worst to their rivals. Former Roma legend Francesco Totti performed a top-class “gufata” yesterday during the Champions League quarterfinals draw, as he was caught by cameras wishing longtime rival Juventus to be paired with Real Madrid – which promptly happened a few seconds later.